The garmon (Russian: , IPA: [g?'rmon?], from garmonika (Russian: ?, IPA: [g?'rmonk?]), which means "harmonic?") is a kind of Russian button accordion, a free-reed wind instrument. A garmon has two rows of buttons on the right side, which play the notes of a diatonic scale, and at least two rows of buttons on the left side, which play the primary chords in the key of the instrument as well as its relative harmonic minor key. Many instruments have additional right-hand buttons with useful accidental notes, additional left-hand chords for playing in related keys, and a row of free-bass buttons, to facilitate playing of bass melodies.
The garmons can be of two major classes: unisonoric, meaning that each button plays the same note or chord when the bellows is being expanded as it does when compressed, and bisonoric, in which the note depends on the direction of the bellowswork. Examples of unisonoric type are livenka (?, after Livny, Oryol Oblast) and Khromka (Russian: , for "chromatic"). Bisonoric garmons are, e.g., Tula accordion (Russian: ?, after Tula) and talyanka (, "Italian")
The garmon is an important musical instrument for Caucasian (Ossetian, Azeri, Armenia, Georgian, Cherkess, etc.) and Volgian (Mari) folk and popular music. Known also as the Harmonika (see Steirische Harmonika) it is very popular in Slovenia. Modern music is also played on the Garmon, with some artists achieving popularity in Europe and the United States of America. The Slovenian style of play differs from the Russian. There are over 300 popular ensembles in Slovenia, one ensemble often consisting of several singers and an accordionist, the musicians very often being young or middle-aged.
Although reduced and expanded versions are widely available, the standard arrangement (known as "25 × 25") is as follows:
The treble keyboard is arranged so that a scale may be played by alternating between the two rows. The low and high octaves have identical fingering, while the middle octave differs. The three accidental notes are arranged so as to mirror the position of the left-hand chords that contain them.
The bass keyboard is arranged so that the principal chords for the major key are in the outer row, placed in circle of fifths order; the principal chords for the harmonic minor key are in the middle row; free bass notes are in the inner row. One free bass accidental note is included.
Since the introduction of the accordion from Germany to Russia in the 1830s, Russian masters invented a lot of different types of local garmons during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Tula garmon (Russian: ?, ) was the first Russian accordion, which began to be manufactured since the 1830s. It had five or seven buttons on the right keyboard, and like in the most Western diatonic accordions it produced different sounds on pull and push. So Tula garmon had two full diatonic octaves (from C4 to C6). The left bass keyboard had two buttons. Tula garmon was a base for all the Russian diatonic bisonoric garmoshkas (Saratov, Kasimov etc.)
Khromka (Russian: ) was invented in 1870 in Tula on the design of Russian musician Nikolay Beloborodov. It was a unisonoric (like bayan or piano accordion) diatonic accordion but on the right keyboard there was also two or three chromatic buttons, usually g1?, d2?, f2?, so hence the name khromka came as it was virtually chromatic. It became the most popular and widespread button accordion in Russia, so almost all modern Russian (as well as Soviet) garmons (usually made in Tula and Shuya factories) are khromkas.
Vyatka garmon (Russian: , ? ?) first appeared on the factories of Vyatka governorate in the middle of the 19th century. It was chromatic unisonoric, it had a piano keyboard on the right side and two bass buttons on the left one. Vyatka garmon was a prototype for many different types of national accordions in the Volga region and the Caucasus (see below). Also after it there were made Russian diatonic and chromatic accordions: Elets "royal" (means with a piano keyboard, because in Russian a grand piano is called royal') garmon, Beloborodov's royal garmon (made by Tula master Chulkov in the 1870s on the design of Beloborodov, it had a full chromatic right keyboard and resembled modern piano accordions) and others.
Russian garmons were popular not only among the Russians but also among the other nations of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Almost all the national garmons are based on Tula, Vyatka and Khromka garmons with modifications needed to fit the local national musical traditions. Some were professionally invented in musical factories in the 20th century.
Phændur or Ossetian accordion was developed on the base of European accordion. It was designed for the features of Ossetian folk musik but then the other Caucasians found it relevant and the instrument became popular all over the Caucasus.
Oriental bayan or accordion was invented in 1936 in the Kazan musical factory, it has a right-hand piano keyboard but a little smaller, so in fact it imitates a piano accordion. In 1961 in the Kazan factory it was revised and the left keyboard mirrored the right one, though the left buttons are not rectangular but round like in button accordions. This type is popular in music of Azerbaijan, and has been popularized in Turkey through the recordings of Nejat Özgür.